Union supports Claimants in latest gig economy employment tribunal action

worker status

The GMB union has launched proceedings against delivery company DX.

The claimants in the case argue they are being denied their rights as workers.

A ‘worker’ is a middle category in-between an ’employee’ and someone who is genuinely self-employed. Workers have fewer statutory employments than employees. but still have important rights, for example to the minimum wage and paid holidays.

“We believe that gig economy employers such as DX are trying to avoid their legal responsibilities by dressing up relations with their workers as self-employment,” says Michael Newman, of Leigh Day, the law firm acting for the claimants. “We intend to challenge this on behalf of those workers who are losing out.

“The ‘gig economy’ refers to companies operating a system where temporary positions are common and an attempt is made to label those working on short-term engagements as ‘independent contractors’,” adds Newman.

“This practice can allow both the company and individual more flexibility in the way they carry out their work. However, this flexibility is often used as an excuse to deny individuals security and basic workers’ rights,” he says.

Justin Bowden, GMB National Secretary, says: “It is high time that gig economy employers like DX stepped up to their responsibilities for those who put in the hours for them. GMB will continue to challenge this shameful practice wherever we can. Multi-million pound employers need to realise that they cannot continue to avoid basic workers’ rights.”

What is the statutory definition of an employee and worker?

Section 230 of the Employment Rights Act 1996 contains the following definitions:

(1)In this Act “employee” means an individual who has entered into or works under (or, where the employment has ceased, worked under) a contract of employment.

(2)In this Act “contract of employment” means a contract of service or apprenticeship, whether express or implied, and (if it is express) whether oral or in writing.

(3)In this Act “worker” (except in the phrases “shop worker” and “betting worker”) means an individual who has entered into or works under (or, where the employment has ceased, worked under)—

(a)a contract of employment, or

(b)any other contract, whether express or implied and (if it is express) whether oral or in writing, whereby the individual undertakes to do or perform personally any work or services for another party to the contract whose status is not by virtue of the contract that of a client or customer of any profession or business undertaking carried on by the individual;

and any reference to a worker’s contract shall be construed accordingly.

What statutory rights does a worker have?

Some of the main statutory employment rights a worker has:

  • The minimum wage
  • Paid leave under the Working Time Regulations
  • Not to suffer unlawful discrimination pursuant to the Equality Act 2010,
  • Not to be subjected to a detriment because the worker has made a “protected disclosure” (section 47B(1), Employment Rights Act 1996) (commonly known as whistle blowing).
  • not to work more than an average 48 hour week or to opt out out of working more than an average 48 hour week.

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